What’s the difference between a passport book and card

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What’s the difference between a passport book and card
By Guy Lelouch
Published on Jun 07, 2022
Edited by Daniel Zeevi

Everyone knows that one of the most essential items to carry with you when traveling outside of the country is a passport. Although, they seem to be a complicated item to acquire. Many people are left wondering how do you get a passport fast and how much does a passport cost? Following these questions is usually when people also realize that there are actually two different kinds of passports to consider.

There are traditional passport books, which are the little blue books that you’re probably most familiar with, but there are also passport cards, the wallet-sized and less expensive alternative to passport books.

In this article, we’ll review all of the major differences between a passport book and passport card to help you decide which travel document you should apply for.

Passport card vs. Passport book

A passport booklet and passport card are in many ways very similar.

For one, they are both used as forms of federal ID meant to certify a person’s identity and are valid for ten years for adults and five years for children under sixteen.

They are also both considered valid forms of REAL ID.


REAL ID is a new safety standard that federal and state IDs must meet in order to perform certain activities like boarding a plane. In the last few years, states have begun rolling out new REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses that feature a star in the top corner.

The REAL ID Act is set to be enforced in October 2021, which means that any driver’s licenses issued more than a few years ago that does not have the REAL ID star cannot be used as a valid form of ID when traveling domestically by plane.

If you do not have a driver’s license or your driver’s license does not comply with the new REAL ID standards, a passport book or passport card is an excellent alternative form of ID, as all passport books and cards are REAL ID compliant.

While passport books and cards can in many ways be used interchangeably when traveling within the US, there are key differences that are important to keep in mind while traveling internationally.

International travel

The key distinction between a traditional passport book and card is that there are different regulations about what kind of international travel each of them can be used for.

Passport books are used more widely and can serve as a form of ID when traveling to or from any country internationally, whether you’re traveling by air, sea, or land.

Passport cards, on the other hand, can only be used when entering the U.S. by land or by sea from the following places:

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • The Caribbean
  • Bermuda

Passport cards cannot be used as ID cards for any form of international air travel, including when traveling from the countries listed above.

When should you consider a passport card over a passport book?

It’s clear that the passport book is a travel document that has certain advantages over the passport card for people interested in international air travel, but in what situations does it pay off to have a passport card instead?

The more convenient choice

Passport books are, like it says in the name, books that are about 5×3.5 inches around with twenty-eight pages meant for stamps and visas. Because of their size, passport books cannot be easily fit into traditionally sized wallets. This can make them more of a hassle to carry around when traveling and can increase the chances of them getting lost in your luggage.

The passport card, on the other hand, is a lot more convenient. It is around the same size as a driver’s license, so it can easily fit into any wallet, making it a much more handy form of ID to us, especially when traveling domestically.

The cheaper alternative

Another major difference between the passport book and card is that the passport book is considerably more expensive.

For reference, passport books are:

  • $145 for first-time applicants over 16
  • $115 for applicants under 16
  • $110 for passport renewal

By comparison, passport cards are:

  • $65 for first-time applicants over 16
  • $50 for applicants under 16
  • $30 for passport renewal

As you can see, passport cards are about half the price of passport books, so if you only need an ID card that you can use when traveling domestically or across local borders, the passport card might be a better alternative for you.

Applying for your passport book or card

Now that you’ve learned the differences between passport books and passport cards, it’s time to start the process of applying for the one that suits you best. Also, If you’re looking to make this passport application submission as cost-efficient as possible, learn how to take a passport photo at home to save yourself more time and money!

Simply fill out this form to apply for a passport online today.


Guy Lelouch
About the author
Guy Lelouch, founder and CEO of GovPlus, drives government digital transformation with his expertise in technology and public policy by creating efficient, transparent, and user-friendly services.

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